Last week, the San Francisco 49ers had their first chance to face an opponent other than themselves. After two weeks of training camp and facing only their own teammates, players were anxious to hit and anxious to face new challenges.
This week, the 49ers face the Houston Texans on Saturday, but more importantly, they get two joint practices in Houston. Game action cannot be entirely matched in practice, but joint practices offer a little something different. You get padded practices with some measure of intensity, but also, the two sides can work on specific situations in a pre-arranged manner. In a game, each side is doing their own thing, and you can only test what opportunities happen to present themselves. In joint practices, Kyle Shanahan and Texans head coach Bill O’Brien can agree ahead of time, or even during the sessions to practice certain drills or situations or anything like that.
The joint practices provide the 49ers with some unique opportunities they won’t get in their own internal practices. Most notable would have to be the offensive line having to square off against a defensive front that includes J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Benardrick McKinney. Rookie tackle Mike McGlinchey talked about the excitement about facing off against some of the best in the business this week.
“It’s going to be fun. Definitely going to be fun. It’s why you play in the NFL. It’s to play against the biggest and the baddest dudes, and they’ve got like three or four of them. So it’s going to be pretty fun.”
The offensive line struggled particularly in getting the run going, and the Texans won’t make things any easier. On the other side of the ball, 49ers cornerbacks will face one of the best in the business in DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller won’t be any easier. The Texans are a contender in the AFC South, and the 49ers should find themselves getting challenges up and down the roster.
It is also worth noting that practice will bring a new element as well: extreme heat. It can get warm in Santa Clara, but Houston is a whole different beast. Rookie safety Terrell Williams attended the University of Houston and he had a creative description for playing in the Houston heat.
“I told ’em it’s like practicing with a Walmart sack over your face out there. It’s like trying to breathe through a straw.”
Mike McGlinchey said he was more worried about the “heat monster” than the tough matchups in practice. As he put it, “As long as I can stay upright and not lose 15 pounds at practice, I’ll come out of there with a win.”